AFTER half a century in the haulage industry it is the end of the road for New Milton-based contractor Gary Parsons as he reires at the age of 70.
His fleet of blue lorries have been a familiar sight around the area for the last 36 years – usually delivering loads for New Milton Sand and Ballast but also working for other firms.
Gary has also been a great supporter of local community events, lending out trucks and volunteering his services at the New Forest Marathon, the Byron Road Christmas Lights, Christchurch Carnival, Everton Music Festival and Bashley Flower Show.
After turning 70 earlier this year, Gary decided the time was right to park up his trucks for the final time after negotiating a deal for his staff to be re-employed by New Milton Sand and Ballast.
Gary told the A&T: “It’s been hard work at times, but I have absolutely loved the job. Some of my drivers have been with me since the very early days and many for at least 20 years, so it was important for me to know they had a job to move on to if that’s what they wanted.”
Gary’s other regular customers included Eco Sustainable Solutions at Parley, Tarmac Ltd at Blashford, Cemex Concrete at various New Forest sites, Aggregate Industries in Christchurch and a number of other construction firms.
He first became involved with the haulage industry by chance after being demobbed from the army and moving to a council house in New Milton.
“Despite growing up in Ringwood and Fordingbridge, I’d never really heard of New Milton, but in those days if you were leaving the services you could write to your local council and you would be moved straight to the top of the housing list,” he told the A&T.
Gary enlisted in the army straight from school and undertook duty around the world, including completing a six-month tour of Northern Ireland and two years in Singapore.
He also met his wife Mary whilst he was stationed at Middle Whallop, where she was working for the Air Corp in the air traffic control tower.
The couple and their daughters, Donna and Lynn, were offered a house in Hardy Close on North Milton estate, and Gary began searching for a job.
“I walked past Ingrams Furness Haulage on the old Remo site, and thought I’d just pop in to see if they had any jobs,” he said.
“They told me that most of their drivers had been with them for 30 or 40 years and nobody ever left, so jobs very rarely came up, but they took my details anyway just in case.”
However, the following Monday the firm contacted Gary to say a longstanding driver had just handed his notice in. He started work almost immediately in May 1976, spending most of the week away from home transporting goods around the UK.
He said: “We delivered a lot of trees from Broadmeads Nursery and Beaulieu all around the country, and then when we got there we would get another load to transport on somewhere else.”
With the arrival of third child Gary in 1979, it became difficult for him to spend long periods of time away from home. In 1983, he was offered a job with Peter Greenhaugh undertaking haulage work for New Milton Sand and Ballast, meaning he could return home in the evenings.
In 1991, Peter decided to sell up and Gary bought his two trucks and took over the haulage contract for New Milton Sand and Ballast. He continued to expand the business, building up to a fleet of 23 vehicles and a staff of 19 drivers, with Gary and Mary undertaking all the administrative work.
Son Gary subsequently joined the firm as a driver, and later took over much of the logistics work and maintenance planning.
Gary Snr said: “The planning and logistics is really a full-time job, and Gary was very good at it – he will be moving over to New Milton Sand and Ballast with the drivers to do virtually the same job.
“Two of my staff are retiring and another is going on to do something else, but the other 11 drivers are moving over to New Milton Sand and Ballast on the same contract.
“It been a great life – it’s all I’ve ever done and for the most part I will really miss it. I won’t miss working until 10pm at night doing maintenance on one of the vehicles though!”
Gary will continue on as chairman of Dorset and West Hants Road Haulage Association, and as chairman of Hordle Scouts. A devoted Southampton FC fan and longstanding season ticket holder, he also plans to spend more time following his team.
“Although I officially retired on Friday there will still be a few weeks or months spent finishing up the paperwork,” he said. “I’m not exactly sure after that – I might get a little part time job – but I definitely won’t be taking up golf!”
After taking just one week of holiday each year, Gary is also hoping to travel to New Zealand to visit his eldest daughter and her family.
“With my age and health catching up on me I feel now is the best time to sit back, relax and enjoy myself,” he said. “I will miss all the drivers, and I would like to thank them all for their loyalty and hard work.”
Elliott Hassall, a director at New Milton Sand and Ballast, said: “Gary has been such a great man to work with – we will all miss him. The directors would like to take this opportunity to thank him for supporting us superbly for such a long period of time. It really is the end of an era.”